Posts tagged with “bicycles”

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 2

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 2 –  Day visit to Amsterdam


Monday, 24th of September


We headed to Amsterdam for the day, under guidance of our host.  It really helps tagging along with someone who not only knows where the station is, but also how the ticket sales and incidental detail works.  Such as where you need to run your ticket through the machine when you enter the station, and again when you leave the station at your destination.

The bicycle is evidently king in the Netherlands.

Even assuming that not all these riders headed for the Starbucks, it still remains impressive.

There is a complete network of roads for bicycles, and quite often cars need go yield to bicycles. Pedestrians too – something cyclists are renowned for reminding you about lest you forget, or worse, dare to transgress.

Under guidance of our host, we also travelled to the station by bicycle, but you must be very attentive to the rules to get it right. In fact, kids get trained in this at school and get “certified” after an evaluation. We, of course, did not have the benefit of that training. So we stuck to the back roads.

Katie Melua sings about the nine million bicycles in Beijing. She should come here.

The bicycles are heavy duty models with large wheels and with all manners of saddle bags and carriers. More like the SUV format of bicycles. I guess the reason for the sturdiness is to enable you to travel with your luggage. Everyone rides bicycles, and in their office clothes. I mean, really smartly dressed folks travel like that.

In downtown Amsterdam you need to pay even more attention. There you need to watch out, in addition to vehicles, for bicycles, pedestrians and tourists, also for the trams.

And if you’re from a country where you keep left and pass right, you really need to concentrate. Oh, of course in Amsterdam there are boats too, but they tend to stick to the water, which helps.

Everything is automated. Train ticket sales happen online or at an automated booth. You swipe your card as you enter the station, and again at the station where you get off. This opens the gates for you and registers the length of your travel. It works really smooth, but it is not cheap. A train station is part of the setup at Schiphol airport. And at Amsterdam Centraal the train station is also the place where trams and ferries meet.

Everything works efficiently.


I Am sterdam

You need to have a look at a map to get an idea of the Amsterdam water ways.

[Source:  Map Data 2018 © Google  South Africa]

We started our day with a channel boat trip. Ours was a fixed trip, as opposed to the hop on hop off tours. Commentary is provided in 19 languages on headphones, but I thought it best to stick to a language that I was familiar with.

One gets the feel of an old town with houses crammed together in limited space. Some of the building lines have become skew because of foundations having been damaged over time.  Because by “old” I mean really, really old.

Limited land space had caused the Dutch to go upwards many stories, rather than expansive on a floor plan.  And the “building line” is basically the next door building.  One can understand why the Dutch had to develop proper rules on various servitudes providing for neighbourly tolerance.

After the boat trip we took the ferry that crosses the large channel to the northeast of the station.

We had no business on the other side of the channel.  But the ferry was for free, departing every three minutes, so we did it just because it is there.

To reach the ferry you walk through a subway.  As everywhere, bicycles galore.

Inside the tunnel, the walls are covered, not with graffiti, but tile works.  Or maybe this is Dutch graffiti.




Rijks Museum

We took the tram to the Rijks Museum.  We could have walked.  Amsterdam is actually comparatively small.  But the tram was a novel experience, and as we had our hostess who knows her way around, it made everything very comfortable.

In front of the museum is the iconic I AMSTERDAM in huge letters, with seemingly everyone scrambling to have their picture taken on it.  In spite of the many letters there was a bit of jostling for space for your ideal picture.

As for the Rijks Museum:  Even for me as a totally uneducated art watcher, the greatness of the institution and the artists struck me, probably more than the artwork itself.  I mean, my goodness, here I am looking at artworks originally done by the masters themselves.

If you do not fancy your pictures getting photo bombed, do not visit the Rijksmuseum go on tour.

Speaking of art works, the red light district was pointed out to me from a distance. Apparently a visit to the red light district has for decades been a preferred tourist attraction for visiting South Africans.  Before I left home I endeavored to educate myself on YouTube.   This led me to decide to rather not visit the red light district.   It just seemed potentially very awkward to look (stare?) at the girls through their windows. So I decided to rather give it a pass.

From the Rijksmuseum we walked back to the station, rather than to take the tram. On our way there we visited the Begijnhof church complex.

In one chapel we spotted their newsletter in Afrikaans.  They apparently have Afrikaans attendants to their congregation.

If I must sum up my observations for the day I would say I found Amsterdam enchanting. Maybe the fact that I can more or less grasp the written language (and thus the signs and instructions), and the fact that the spoken language sounds like I should understand it,  helps making me feel at home. Also, I quite like the way things are happening in orderly fashion.  Of course, it helps that everyone actually sticks to the rules. This environment can work for me.

[Click below on Part 3 to read further]…